Inaugural European Games 'will be innovative'

The inaugural European Games being hosted by Baku in 2015 will be about being different and innovative, the president of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) Pat Hickey told AFP in an interview.

  • Published: 7/02/2013 at 11:44 AM
  • Newspaper section: news

Fans wave the Azerbaijan and German flags before a football Euro 2012 qualifier on June 7, 2011 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The inaugural European Games being hosted by Baku in 2015 will be about being different and innovative, the president of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) Pat Hickey told AFP in an interview.

The 67-year-old Irishman, who is on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) elite Executive Board, saw his dream realised last year when the Games were voted into being by 85 percent of the EOC members.

Hickey admitted the first Games -- which will feature 14 to 15 sports -- would target a youthful audience, for the Irishman said something had to be done to arrest the dramatic fall in young people taking up sports.

"This Games will be a trial, an experiment with the emphasis on being innovative," said Hickey, who has already got two bidders for the 2019 edition with another two cities expressing an interest.

"There will be a big emphasis on them being very attractive to the young because the fall off in their participation in sports has been huge. They are more at ease sitting down in front of their latest computer game than taking exercise.

"Another facet to the Games is we are allowing sports involved that appear at the Olympics to feature programmes that aren't allowed in those Games. We are being very flexible.

"We are expecting about 3,000 athletes, though, we can stretch it to 5,000 but we want to keep it manageable. The last thing we want is to be a carbon copy of the Olympic Games."

Among the non Olympic sports being seriously considered for the inaugural edition is dance, from ballroom to hip hop, as Hickey says it is the sort of event that will encourage the young to get off their sofas and do some exercise.

"Dance is extremely popular with the young," he said.

"The majority of the most watched TV shows now in Europe are dance-based with some form of athlete trying his luck. Dance can be like snowboarding at the Winter Olympics, a magnet for the young, and thusfar we have got great feedback from all round Europe."

One sport not likely to be in Baku will be athletics, always a showpiece of major Games.

"We have a very good relationship with European Athletics authorities. However, they have contracts signed up to 2015.

"We always knew that we wouldn't have athletics at the first Games. As time goes by we hope to have a solution. We fully appreciate their concerns and commitments and hope to have them on board for 2019."

Hickey said he hoped the European Games would be the ideal showpiece for those cities who can't aspire to host an Olympic Games.

"We want the European Games to be open to mid-sized cities hosting them, the likes of Warsaw, Prague or Lyon," said Hickey.

"Ideally a city which can't really host an Olympics but wants to be the host of a prestigious Games."

Baku, though, is keen to host an Olympics and Hickey believes a successful hosting of the European Games would do their chances a world of good.

"We have no concerns over Baku and their hosting of the Games.

"It is an immensely rich country and it will be a very strong financial Games," said Hickey, who added that support from the hosts came from the top as the wife of Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, was head of the organising committee.

"They have bid twice previously for the Olympic Games and they see it as a stepping stone to a successful Olympics bid.

"We still have to decide with them whether they are held in May or June, and that will be decided in March, but we always knew we would have problems with the European sporting schedule.

"But if you were to look at all these problems you would never start anything.

"A year ago we had no venue or sports and now we have gone from zero to between 14 to 15 sports and a host city. That is a phenomenal success."

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